Nearly 340 church planting missionaries and strategists gathered in Atlanta this week for the annual church planting forum hosted by the mission arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The 2008 Church Planting Missionary and National Missionary Forum, Feb. 27-Mar. 1, is hosted by the North American Mission Board's Church Planting Group. The forum's theme this year is "Live with Urgency."
"'Live with Urgency' reflects a challenge to all Southern Baptists to live as missionaries because the time to accomplish God's vital mission is limited," explained David Meacham, NAMB's senior strategists for church planting, according to NAMB.
In a forum presentation, NAMB president Geoff Hammond discussed what it meant to be a missionary. Hammond said a missionary is a born-again Christian who is called by God to transcend significant cultural barriers and work through relevant cultural channels in order to share the Gospel, according to the church planting blog by Mark Weible, who attended the forum.
The NAMB president – in his presentation entitled "What is a Missionary?" – said a missionary is someone who recognizes their own culture and adapts to other cultures, networks for evangelism, partners with sending churches, engages in peacemaking/conflict resolution, builds relationships, works as a team, engages in indigenous work, focuses on principles, and identifies and equips new leaders, among other characteristics.
Fellow NAMB leader Meacham shared on the topic of "The Church Planting Process."
"Each forum session is designed to offer valuable learning opportunities to stimulate growth and sharpen missionary skills," Meacham explained about the forum's structure. "We pray the participants will take away new knowledge and skills as well as new relationships with church planting partners from all across North America."
One attendee, Gary Hawkins, is a Native Indian church planting missionary from Henryetta, Okla., who focuses on multi-ethnic church planting in eastern Oklahoma. Hawkins said he sees the forum as a good place to gather new ideas.
"I like to hear from other ethnic groups about how they're doing things, training, and locating potential church planters," said Hawkins, who is an NAMB-appointed church planting missionary. "I like to hear different ways of resourcing church planters."
This year's forum break-out sessions will emphasize character development, knowledge and skills for missionaries, while contextual sessions will focus on collegiate, urban core, arts, African-American, Asian, Anglo, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Multi-ethnic and Native American people groups.
"This will go down as one of the most significant Church Planting Missionary Forums ever," contends Hammond, adding that most of the training material is brand-new. "We're really excited about the new curriculum."
Also planned are special break-out sessions for missionary wives who are attending. They are being led by Debbie Hammond, wife of NAMB president Geoff Hammond.
On Friday night, NAMB will hold its annual church planting recognition and celebration dinner.